We made our way past Hollin Hall and met up with the rest of the party by the crossroads area just outside the farm itself. This is now where my account becomes a little more interesting! Firstly, Jane Royston was already pointing across the fields into the distance -where she was indicating for us to also look through our camera zoom lens etc. Because some of the hedge- line trees had been thinned out recently, there was now a gap into the field beyond and through our lens we could see what appeared to be a ‘graveyard’ of fallen trees. These had either been blown down or uprooted and deliberately dumped there in the field as natural ‘rubbing posts’ for livestock. All their branches had already been removed and the remaining trunks and stumpy- looking roots, were now grey and white- ‘bleached’ and worn down by the elements -and by cattle and sheep. Amongst these fallen ‘giants’, we could see a ‘small tree’ without a root ball, seemingly isolated from the rest-this we were told by Jane could be the original ‘lightning tree’! Even Ray Knight, despite his in-depth knowledge on Follyfoot, appeared not to be even aware of this.
If this was the actual ‘lightning tree’ according to Jane - then it must have been dropped there, well over 30 years ago! Then it was suggested to me, whether some of us should go over and have a closer look at it and I agreed. They went on first because as we were all contemplating this possible, exiting new discovery, a tall willowy woman began to approach us from behind and walking alongside her, was a beautiful thoroughbred horse-the type that steeple- race! She casually walked past and turned left, heading off towards the next field -where they were already on their way. I took some photos of the horse and then followed suit and eventually caught up with them We gradually approached the tree and as I looked back behind me, in the distance (some 390 yards away-according to Goggle Earth) everyone else was watching us!
The stump/trunk looked about 18ft long and had no roots but had clearly been cut down. At the other end, there were finger-like stumps which incredibly seemed to match those very same limbs that had once adorned the tree in the series.
There was a ground ‘rut’ running all around the tree which suggested animals over the years had walked around it, rubbing their bodies against the trunk. All the natural bark on top had been removed but there was plenty of bark still underneath. Without bark it would have been difficult to identify this particular species of tree. At the time, I thought it was possibly an ash tree but I felt more confident it was an oak tree. We decided to take some bits off - potential souvenirs in effect- and then made our way back to the others, who by now were waiting patiently for our return and a verdict! As we neared, we said we were not sure whether it was the ‘lightning tree’ or not but we thought that the tree was an oak. One of the party, who was an expert on identifying trees initially thought the bark may have been from a sycamore tree but on closer inspection, concluded it was likely to be an oak tree.
Either way, we were on the right lines and as I write, I understand Jane Royston will make some inquires of her own with several contacts to try to establish where exactly this particular tree originated from!
And so our Follyfoot adventure came to a close! Some of us were frankly knackered, and wanted to sit down and rest. It was time to shake hands, say farewell and head back home etc. We all looked forward to the 40th Celebrations planned for next year!
I would like to thank everyone for turning up and it was a real pleasure to meet you all! Thank you to Loopy for your CD! Thank you also to Peter who generously cut -up his cherished wallpaper and shared this out to Forum members in the pub! I would also like to thank Christopher Ussher of the Harewood Estate and Laxmi Bantawa and likewise Jackie Naylor who through the Estate’s permission, allowed our get together at Follyfoot farm. Lastly, many thanks to Peter and Susie Grant of Stockeld Park and their kind generosity in opening their doors to us.
As a footnote, when I was traveling up on the train (I believe just before reaching Sheffield) the train came to an abrupt halt- a large tree had fallen across both tracks - and there were delays for more than an hour!
Peter Charles Thorne. (August 2010).